The rapidly spreading Covid-19 Omicron variant has upended the holiday season and threatens hospital capacity and economic output. Though 73 percent of the adult US population is vaccinated and about one million boosters are given a day, the strategy must shift a bit to make an Omicron mitigation plan. As such the White House announced the following:
- Mobilizing an Additional 1,000 Troops to Deploy to COVID-Burdened Hospitals: The President is directing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to ready an additional 1,000 service members—military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel—to deploy to hospitals during January and February, as needed.
- Deploying Federal Medical Personnel Available to States Immediately: The President is announcing that six emergency response teams—with more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics—are deploying to six states now: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. This is on top of the 300 federal medical personnel deployed since we learned about Omicron.
Expanding Hospital Capacity:
- Activating FEMA Response Teams to Help States and Hospitals Add Capacity Now: The President is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to activate additional staffing and capacity for the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and FEMA regions, and to mobilize planning teams to work with every state and territory to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and to start expanding hospital bed capacity now. The Administration is also pre-positioning the federal government’s own supplies and resources to help make more beds available.
- Providing Ongoing Support to States to Help Hospitals Create and License More Beds: FEMA has already provided states hundreds of millions of dollars to expand hospital capacity. This includes two new medical surge facilities in Shreveport, Louisiana, added beds for Covid-19 patients in Baltimore, Maryland, and expanded intensive care units and emergency departments in Fresno, California.
- Deploying Hundreds of Ambulances and Emergency Medical Teams to Transport Patients to Open Beds: To get ahead of surges, FEMA is ready to deploy hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams so that if one hospital fills up, they can transport patients to open beds in other facilities. Just this week, 30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont, and 20 to Arizona, and 30 ambulances are headed to New York and 8 to Maine. The Administration is also continuing to provide 100 percent federal reimbursement to states for all Covid-19 emergency response costs.
- Pre-Positioning Critical Supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile: The US government has hundreds of millions of N-95 masks, billions of gloves, tens of millions of gowns, and over 100,000 ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile, all ready to ship out if and when states need them. The Administration has pre-positioned these supplies in strategic locations across the United States so that we can send them to states that need them immediately.
- Deploying Ventilators to States: HHS continues to expedite the deployment of ventilators to states. Just last week, the Administration sent 330 ventilators to states like Indiana, Michigan, Maine, and New Hampshire, with more planned deliveries on the way to states that are facing strains and need them.
- Standing up New Federal Testing Sites: New federal testing sites will be stood up around the country, helping states that need additional testing capacity. The first will be stood up in New York City.
- Distributing Free, Rapid Tests to Americans: The Administration will purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid tests this winter to be distributed for free to Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022. The Administration will stand up a website where Americans can go to get at-home tests delivered to their home, for free.
Utilizing the Defense Production Act to Further Accelerate Production: The US will continue using the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other authorities to make sure the U.S. is producing as many tests as quickly as possible. Through the President’s aggressive actions this summer, including use of the DPA, the Administration has already quadrupled the monthly supply of at-home, rapid tests in the US. The Administration will continue to use the DPA to accelerate production; just in the last week, the Administration used DPA to ensure that two testing manufacturers have the raw materials and equipment they need to produce as many tests as they can—enabling one company to double its production of lab-based tests, and another to rapidly to scale up production of new over the counter and point-of-care tests.